Starting 5 seems to be solidified
Winslow settles in at power forward
MIAMI There have already been four starting power forwards, three starting centers, two starting small forwards and two starting shooting guards. The lone segment of stability for the Miami Heat has been at point guard, where Goran Dragic has started all 13 games.
But tonight, barring a late change from coach Erik Spoelstra against the Washington Wizards, the Heat will do something they haven’t done so far this season — go with the same five starters for a fourth consecutive game.
“It’s certainly compelling enough to continue like this,” Spoelstra said following Tuesday’s practice at AmericanAirlines Arena. “There’s some very good things with that starting unit. We just continue to need to build a consistent 48-minute game.”
The latest lineup permutation came together with Justise Winslow opening at power forward, after Kelly Olynyk, James Johnson and Okaro White previously had been cast in that starting role. The lineup with Winslow at power forward has gone 2-1.
“He was starting to trend in
the right direction, anyway,” Spoelstra said, with Winslow starting the previous two games at small forward, in the paternity-leave absence of Dion Waiters, before this shift to power forward. “I just want him to make an impact when he’s out there, on both ends of the court. At the four, he can play off of our guards and facilitate and then pick his spots where to be aggressive.
“When I had him off the bench, he was playmaking a little bit more. He’s got to be able to do both, so I don’t think there’s a better or worse.”
For now, there at least is a sense of stability.
Winslow said he is taking nothing for granted.
“We’re still trying to figure it out,” he said. “I don’t think the starting lineup is set in stone yet. This is the rhythm, the flow that coach wants to get into.”
The previous longest run by a Heat lineup this season was the three consecutive games that featured firstround pick Bam Adebayo opening at center in the injury absence of Hassan Whiteside. The Heat went 0-3 with that alignment, with Adebayo barely having played since.
“I feel comfortable with the second unit and the starting lineup,” Dragic said of the latest alignment. “It’s just a matter of time when we figure out those things. The starting lineup is looking a little bit better. Our defense is much better.”
Mostly, the Heat have developed a sense of continuioff ty.
“It helps because you know what everybody is doing, what you can expect from guys and you feel more comfortable out there,” Dragic said. “That cannot give you guarantees that every night you’re going to have a good game.
“But, still, at least you know what kind of plays you can run for some guys.”
It also has Winslow more singular in his focus, no longer playing primarily as a distributor, as he did with the second unit, now playing off Dragic and Dion Waiters.
“That starting lineup, I’m the ball a little bit more,” he said. “That’s something I’ve had to learn to do especially since college. College, I wasn’t the point, but I had the ball a little bit more. Rookie year was that transition for me.
“I’m still kind of working it out, trying to figure it out, but those guys are great playmakers, unselfish. The ball’s going to find the open guy. It’s just a little different when I’m making the plays versus other people, just kind of got to feel it out.”
The mood mostly was upbeat Tuesday, with the Heat back working on their own practice court for the first time in two weeks, after a 3-3 trip.
“It feels great,” Spoelstra said. “I love being in the confines, love being able to see those blue skies right outside our practice window. There’s nothing like it.
“We’re plugging away. Everything is about pushing that rock up the hill and trying to get better each day. We’re up and down, like a lot of teams are in this league.”
Forward Justise Winslow and the starting five need to build on their consistency through the game, according to Erik Spoelstra.